As we did last offseason, Twinkie Town writers are grading every player who appeared in a game for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. (Last year’s grades can be found here, this year’s here.) Players will be graded individually on an A-F scale based on their hitting, fielding, and whatever else the author wants to consider.
Sometimes the hardest grades to give involve averaging out two different stories. Randy Dobnak probably fits this category. In the early going, he was one of the best hurlers in Major League Baseball, and by the end of the season, he was no longer playing in the Major Leagues.
Dobnak entered the season as one of the darker horses for a rotation role, but his strong showing at the end of 2019 gave him a leg up over the other rookies, and put him into the opening day rotation.
After Dobnak exited his first start early, and the team got thumped (which entirely wasn’t his fault,) he was among the best pitchers in the month of August (okay, technically starting July 31.) Not just the best pitchers on the Twins—he was among the best pitchers in baseball that month.
The cliff popped up under Dobnak’s feet after his start on August 22nd. After that game, his ERA was 1.78, and he’d given up a total of six runs. On the 29th, he gave up another six, on twelve hits, and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning against a moribund Detroit squad. That was the beginning of the end, as his ERA climbed up to 4.05 with three more starts, and he was optioned to the alternate site in Saint Paul, never to return.
By the way, does the term “Alternate Site” remind anyone else of Jurassic Park II?
Dobnak still had a very good season for a rookie. Compared to 2019, he struck out fewer batters, gave up more hits, and a lot more runs. Conversely, he pitched almost twice as many innings in about as many appearances. FIP suggests that he had a tiny bit of bad luck, but mostly performed in line with what his stats suggest—a 4.05 ERA and 3.96 FIP are pretty darn similar afterall. This is an encouraging sign for 2021. Also encouraging, in my opinion, is that he got these results with a lot of contact, and few strikeouts. To me, that means some slight tweaks to his mechanics, pitch selection, or even just mentally might bring him to the next level.
For a guy who was famously driving Uber a couple years ago, Dobnak had a pretty good season. We were talking about him as a Cy Young and Rookie of the Year candidate at midseason. Your grade probably depends on if you think he is the guy we saw through most of August, or the guy we saw in September long-term.
How would you grade Randy Dobnak’s 2020 season?
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